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Deliberations & identity formation

CCP member John Gasitil, along w/ co-authors, has a new article out presenting evidence that highly participatory forms of democratic deliberation promote a distinctive shared identity that transcends more particular and potentially divisive ones, such as those founded on cultural affiliations.

The analysis was largely qualitative: a case study based on impressionistic analyses of transcripts from citizen deliberations associated with the Australian Citizens' Parliament. I know JG has more data on the Australian Citizens' Parliament, including some that admit of more systematic analysis, in hand. Good way to do research since the convergence of results from more interpretive forms of empirical analysis and more quantitative -- if they do indeed converge! -- make the conclusions of both more worthy of being credited.

I know from experience that collective deliberations on baseball are not sufficient to enable Gastil to transcend his partisan cultural identity as a Tigers fan.

Felicetti, A., Gastil, J., Hartz-Karp, & Carson, L. Collective Identity and Voice at the Australian Citizens' Parliament. Journal of Public Deliberation 8, article 5 (2012):

This paper examines the role of collective identity and collective voice in political life. We argue that persons have an underlying predisposition to use collective dimensions, such as common identities and a public voice, in thinking and expressing themselves politically. This collective orientation, however, can be either fostered or weakened by citizens’ political experiences. Although the collective level is an important dimension in contemporary politics, conventional democratic practices do not foster it. Deliberative democracy is suggested as an environment that might allow more ground for citizens to express themselves not only in individual but also in collective terms. We examine this theoretical perspective through a case study of the Australian Citizens’ Parliament, in which transcripts are analyzed to determine the extent to which collective identities and common voice surfaced in actual discourse. We analyze the dynamics involved in the advent of collective dimensions in the deliberative process and highlight the factors—deliberation, nature of the discussion, and exceptional opportunity—that potentially facilitated the rise of group identities and common voice. In spite of the strong individualistic character of the Australian cultural identity, we nonetheless found evidence of both collective identity and voice at the Citizens’ Parliament, expressed in terms of national, state, and community levels. In the conclusion, we discuss the implications of those findings for future research and practice of public deliberation.


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Reader Comments (3)

So why doesn't this work with the US Congress? (No snark intended - serious question.)

April 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Fleck

I will need to check with John on that & get back to you. (Maybe he can be induced to answer.)

April 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

The difference between Congress and the Australian Citizens’ Parliament (and similar structured events) is that the ACP aims to bring together a diverse public to deliberate and clarify key points of disagreement while discovering common ground. It is in that setting that one finds the discovery of common purpose and identity and the willingness to engage diverse ideas and relevant evidence.
By contrast, Congress has become a site used principally to produce and disseminate partisan messaging for the purpose of strengthening a party’s electoral advantage and securing one’s own reelection. There have been deliberative moments, historically, in that body, as capably argued by Joseph Bessette in The Mild Voice of Reason. But in the present day, I believe they are the exception. I offer my most cynical take in my 2008 book, Political Communication and Deliberation:

“Though there are periods of spirited debate now and again, anyone entering a state legislature should take a seat in the viewing gallery expecting to see a session of “legislative karaoke.” Like its more musical namesake, legislative karaoke consists of one speaker after another giving an amateur performance of a pre-written script, occasionally glancing up from their notes in an effort to make brief eye contact. The speaker and the listener both know the script, and the reading is merely a performance. While one speaker “sings” her talking points, the other legislators can be as rude as even the seediest bar crowd, noisily unwrapping and eating food on their desks, reading mail, talking to one another, and even answering phone calls. Meanwhile, the person next in the queue goes over his notes and gets ready to take the microphone when signaled to do so by the D.J., a.k.a. the presiding officer of the chamber.”

May 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Gastil

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